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  • Housing Crisis, Me?

    On Monday of this week, I received news that nobody who rents wants, but everyone fears. My landlord is selling up, and I have to go.

    I’m on a training course when this phone call is taking place; luckily, it’s with my Autism Puzzles family. I start the conversation about what needs to happen quite stoically, by the end of the call, tears were running down my face, but I was determined not to let on to my landlord. Who knows if I was successful. My team showered me in hugs and words of support, and immediately I had people asking me how they could help.

    I posted news of my woes on Facebook – I’m a 30 something in the 21st Century, of course I posted it on Facebook! The outpouring of support, and offers of practical help have been completely overwhelming. I’ve spent a lot of my adult life in very isolated social circles, and when I separated (amicably) from my husband, I initially became more isolated still. My horrendous mental health issues (still working on them, but doing a pretty damn good job) and my innate introversion made connecting with people at that time (May 2014) almost impossible. I’d become a full-time carer to the boys (due to special needs), had a brilliant best friend, but not much else by way of friends, and an intense fear of going out to do things. I also wanted to die. A lot.

    Over the past few years my support network has grown exponentially, and this current crisis has demonstrated this by the gallon! I’ve had so many people offer a roof over my head if I don’t find somewhere to rent before I must move out, and I’ve had more than one offer to be a guarantor. Almost everyone I’ve spoken to has asked how they can help, and I’ve had countless people say they’re happy to shift boxes when the time comes.

    The problem is, regardless of my income, and the fact I’m a pretty decent and clean person (well, since reading the book “How to Unfuck Your Habitat”) landlords fear me. You see, I’m on housing benefit. *Cue sinister music*

    I have been looking for two days (not long I know, but ye gods, I don’t have much time), and in that time I’ve been interested in about 9 properties, had 5 rejections before I even stepped foot through the door, 1 viewing which I liked but the agent isn’t sure the landlord will accept me, and the rest haven’t come back to me. I have more than enough money to pay, I have almost three years of rental payments and six years of mortgage payments to prove that I can pay on time without defaulting, AND the ability to secure a guarantor. This, however, isn’t enough for the “elitist Tory bastards” (Jones, B, 2017). This is making the whole process unbelievably stressful.

    I have had mental health issues on and off for the majority of my life, and am very black in white in my thinking (even though not everybody sees this). Due to this, my brain hasn’t got appropriate disaster reaction transmitters.  I keep getting brain flashes of suicidal ideation, as this is how I’ve dealt with crises in the past (whilst this sounds flippant, if you read my blog posts from 2014/15, you’ll see this was no laughing matter). I can immediately have a word with myself now, and know that it’s just because I need to build new pathways. This will do that – eventually.

    If this crisis had landed a year ago, there is a strong possibility I wouldn’t be here. The reason I have come so far is not, contrary to what my close friends say, because I’m superwoman. It’s because of the people I have in my life right now.

    The mums on the school run who I’m now confident to speak to, all the people who I’ve met through my wonderful best friend, and in vast quantities my Autism Puzzles family. Thank you, each and every one of you. I may be facing homelessness due to the housing crisis, and landlord’s inability to open their minds to the possibility that people on benefits are capable of paying for and maintaining a property, but I’m definitely not facing it alone.


  • 2014 – The Summary

    How much can happen in a year?

    As it turns out, lots. Lots of things can happen in a year. 2014 has been… eventful and that’s putting it kindly. If I’m truly honest, it has been one of the hardest years of my life. It has also been a year of self-discovery, and I know I am exiting the year a stronger person than when I entered it, the journey however, has been a bitch of a ride.

    2014 marked the beginning of my life as a full time carer/stay at home mum. Since my eldest son was born, all I ever wanted was to be able to stay at home with him, to do all the school runs, to bake cakes, go to the park, play board games, have his friends over for dinner, become a member of the PTA, the list goes on. Unfortunately, reality doesn’t tend to match ideals. The sole reason I became a stay at home mum, was due to my eldest son requiring enough extra support, compared to other children his age, he qualified for DLA. My dreams of PTA meetings had turned into hospital appointments and SENCO meetings, trips to the park were few and far between, and during those trips I spent most of my time calling out to him to “stop licking the railings” or to “please come back, you’re too far ahead” and “put your bottom away, nobody wants to see that”. All pretty normal for a toddler, right? Except he isn’t a toddler, he was 6 in April of this year. He also has an Autism Spectrum Disorder diagnosis. This year I also got diagnosed with Coeliac Disease and my youngest son has issues with hypermobility, however he proved his physiotherapists wrong and started walking this year just before he turned two. Unfortunately his Geneticist found he has a heart murmur and has referred him to a cardiologist, we should know more about that in the New Year. Medically, this year has been an eye opener, at least we are better prepared for what the future may hold.

    The biggest shock to me was how much I missed working. I knew I liked my job and I also knew I was good at it, however I never thought that being employed was such an important part of my identity. I have recently started doing some freelance work as I needed to do something to protect my mental health as I had felt like a drain on society since I stopped working full time and felt like I had lost a big part of who I was. I don’t, however, make money from it.

    I also realised early in the year that throughout my adult life, I had changed myself to be the person I thought everyone else wanted me to be and I knew I had to make big changes in order to start bringing myself out of the depressive cycle I had been in since I was a teenager.

    The first step was being completely honest with my husband about how I felt, including informing him I didn’t think our relationship was going to work. I’m not going to dedicate much time in this post to the separation, however I am grateful that we have come out of the other side amicably, I would consider him a friend. There were very low points during the transitional period, particularly when I felt like an awful person for not wanting to be with him when he still wanted to be with me, however he has met someone new and I wish them all the happiness in the world. He deserves to be happy, as do I.

    At around the same time, I spoke to my mum about my childhood. I feel we now have a much more open relationship than we ever had in the past, although I still very much revert back to a child-like state around her. I also went back to my GP to talk about how low I was feeling, they increased my dose of antidepressants and referred me to Primary Mental Health, who did precisely nothing.

    During the separation and the period of talking about the past for the first time in many years, I started self-harming for the first time since in many years. I would cut or burn myself on my arms as a way to release some of the pent up emotions, and to also make sure I could still feel something other than sad and despondent. At this point, I lost many of my friends and family members who couldn’t handle me at that time. While I appreciate everyone has their breaking point, these were friends of over a decade, “best friends”, the godparents of my children, the bridesmaids from my wedding (okay, I know that the marriage didn’t work out, but you understand how close we were). There are a list of people who this time last year I would see nearly every day, who have completely disappeared from my life. I have been blocked on social media, texts are not answered. Tonight, at midnight (or there about) will potentially be the last time I attempt to contact them. I will wish them and their families a happy and healthy new year, and if I still don’t get a response, I will give up and stop allowing myself to ruminate about what went wrong and get on with my life. (Although I also know that’s easier said than done.)

    Having said that, I have also met many wonderful people this year all thanks to me meeting up with the most amazing person in the world. I knew him from school, life happened and we didn’t see each other again until 2013 at a mutual friend’s wedding. We reconnected on social media, although this year, in around March, we re-met for coffee and quickly became best friends. He has saved my life on more than one occasion and has been, and will continue to be, my most favourite person on the planet. Thanks to him I have seen live bands performing for the first time since I was in high school, I discovered Aeropress coffee and started to have private counselling for my depression.

    As he is so awesome, he also knows a lot of awesome people. Throughout the year, these people have transitioned from being acquaintances through my best friend, to being my friends. They have welcomed me into their lives with open arms, are funny, kind, honest and more supportive than people I have known for years. This year would have been unbearable if I didn’t know them. Unfortunately, two of the friends I met through my best friend I have also lost within the year, I obviously haven’t quite cracked this “people liking me for who I am” malarkey just yet, however I’m sure with practice I’ll get better at it. I’m not saying I expect people to never call me out on my wrongdoings, in fact, please do call me out on them so I can learn from my mistakes and grow as a person, however the two people in question did the same disappearing act my long-time friends did so nothing can be learned, nothing can be changed, I am in the dark with only my rumination to keep me company.

    Due to the separation, my ex and I sold our marital home and I moved to another area of Cardiff to live on my own (with the children) for the first time ever. While I still love having company, I have realised this year that I am more than capable of being on my own, I don’t need people I want people. They are two completely different things and I’m glad I can now make that distinction. I will admit, however, this is a very recent realisation. I struggled greatly with the transition to single life, missing the knowledge that there was someone else in the house. It was due to missing a presence that I got my cat. He is both lovely and evil, he has a Jekyll and Hyde personality and I wouldn’t trade him for the world.

    I started to fill my evenings with hobbies, mostly reclaimed from my youth. I started playing computer games again. I soon realised that gone were the days of DOS and Duke Nukem 3D, no longer was Doom (the original) an option and Tomb Raider had received a major facelift! With a lot of help from my best friend (and parts from my ex), I built my gaming rig and installed Steam, which is both one of the best and worst things I’ve done this year. I love that I’m playing games again, that I can get lost in another world (sometimes for too long, thank you Skyrim), however the Steam sales are dangerous! I now have more games than I know what to do with and need to stop buying until I have played them all.

    I have read more books this year than in the past 10 years combined (this is possibly an exaggeration, however I know I have read a lot). I do, however, find it strange that I did as for many periods of the year I simply didn’t have the concentration span to read more than four pages at a time. I didn’t give up though and have read some absolutely fantastic books as a result. It was thanks to two of these books that two big events happened; I started practicing Mindfulness meditation (although I will admit I’m not very good at keeping up the momentum) and, after going on a dedicated weekend retreat, I had my first fully lucid dream. For anyone who hasn’t tried to dream lucidly, I would recommend Charlie Morley’s book “Dreams of Awakening” and implore you to give it a go. It’s absolutely fantastic and a wonderful way of confronting the deepest darkest areas of your subconscious.

    This year, I also hit one of my lowest points and took an overdose of sleeping tablets. I’m still not entirely sure what my thought process was at the time, all I knew was I was really sad, and desperately wanted to go to sleep. I had intended on taking the correct dose and going to bed, I ended up taking two diazepam and eight over the counter sleeping tablets. I knew that it wasn’t a lethal dose, and that wasn’t my intention in the first place, but still I confessed what I had done to a friend. She called for an ambulance and I was taken for an overnight stay on the poisons unit. Ironically, I didn’t really sleep that night. I did feel drowsy, particularly in the ambulance, but the inability to fall asleep when I’m really sad still won. I knew I couldn’t do anything like this again and ensured I told my counsellor and my GP what had happened. Ironically, even though the psychiatrist I saw in the hospital said it was likely due to me being overtired, overwhelmed and in need of support, that support (from external agencies and/or people who could really help out with having the children more) never materialised. I am very lucky to have friends who help support me emotionally and, when they can, practically.

    2014 was also the year in which my faithful car finally died a death. Thankfully, as all the debt accumulated while I was with my ex had been paid using the house sale proceeds, I was in a position to buy a new one! I’ve wanted a new car for years but was always too scared to buy one. I thought I needed to justify why I wanted one, I felt I had to seek permission from other people, particularly my parents to do it. I have since learned that I don’t need other people’s permission to buy things, as long as I have the money, I can spend it how I choose.

    So, that was my year. It’s been very hard, stressful and eye-opening. The people I have in my life at the end of 2014 saved me this year, one way or another, I owe a lot to them. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for all your support, kindness and time this year, I love each and every one of you.